Minister wants mandatory sex lessons for under-11s

Speculation is growing that the schools minister, Jim Knight, will recommend that under-11s should be given sex education and parents should lose the right to say no.

According to weekend press reports the Government’s review of sex education, led by Jim Knight, is expected to propose a radical overhaul within the week.

Mr Knight said he had received “many strong representations” for making sex education compulsory at all ages.

At present, the law requires that schools teach the biological facts about sex in science lessons to secondary school pupils.

Anything more than this is not currently compulsory. While many schools choose to offer extra sex education programmes, parents can ask for their children not to be included.

But if the weekend press reports are accurate, all that could be about to change.

Last month a sexual health group launched a sex comic which asked children aged 6 and 7 to correctly identify the vagina and testicles on a picture of a naked girl and boy.

Another sex education resource produced by Channel 4 Learning asked five-year-olds to point out the clitoris.

Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Mr Knight claimed: “The international evidence suggests that teaching aspects of sex and relationship education before puberty has a positive effect on such things as teenage pregnancy rates.”

But opposition MP, Sir Patrick Cormack, called the idea of teachers telling primary school children about sex in place of their parents “deeply disturbing”.

In July a report by The Mental Health Foundation and Girlguiding UK concluded that “premature sexualisation and pressure to grow up too quickly” is affecting young girls’ mental health.

“We are forcing our young people to grow up too quickly and not giving them the spaces and experiences they require to be safe and confident. We are creating a generation under stress.”

Dr Andrew McCulloch, the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Somewhere, somehow, our society has taken a wrong turn in our approach to children and young people.

“Young women face particular pressures. This report provides evidence of the impact of real and perceived pressures around sexual behaviour, physical appearance and material values.

“We are forcing our young people to grow up too quickly and not giving them the spaces and experiences they require to be safe and confident. We are creating a generation under stress.

“This is our responsibility as adults and adult society to put right.”

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